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Heatstroke in Dogs - Everything You Should Know

If you love spending time outdoors in the summer or live in a hot climate especially with your canine companion, you have to be aware of heatstroke. Here you can read what our Windsor vets have to say about heatstroke in dogs, its symptoms, what to do if your pup has heatstroke and how it can be deadly.

What is heatstroke in dogs?

Heatstroke is also known as prostration or hyperthermia. It can be defined as an increase in core body temperature caused by environmental conditions. The temperature of your dog's body should normally be about 99-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog's body temperature increases above 105, contact your veterinarian immediately.  Heatstroke is a very serious condition that could be fatal.

How can dogs get heatstroke?

We, humans, sweat when we are hot in order to cool our body temperatures down unlike dogs who are unable to sweat. Instead, they cool their bodies down by panting. If panting isn't enough to cool themselves down, their body temperatures will keep rising. This causes heatstroke.

No matter what size or breed your dog is they can suffer from heatstroke. However, dogs with thick fur, short noses or those suffering from an underlying medical condition are more susceptible.

The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs are:

  • Leaving a dog in a car on a hot or sunny day
  • Forgetting to provide adequate water for your pet
  • Lack of sufficient shade in their outdoor play area

How can I tell if my dog has heatstroke?

The most obvious sign of heatstroke in dogs is excessive panting. Although, panting isn't the only symptom of heatstroke in dogs. Other symptoms of heatstroke you should be aware of include:

  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Reddened gums
  • Mental dullness
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Collapse

What should I do if my dog has heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a serious condition and symptoms should always be treated as an emergency! Heatstroke in dogs can lead to life-threatening conditions such as abnormal blood clotting, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding. 

If your dog is showing symptoms of heatstroke visit your primary care veterinarian, or the nearest animal emergency hospital right away. When you are on your way to the vet's office, keep the windows open or the air conditioner on full to help keep your dog cool.

If you can't get to a vet's office straight away, remove your dog from the hot environment immediately and let your pup drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You can also help to bring your dog's body temperature down by placing a towel soaked in cool (not cold) water over them.

How is heatstroke in dogs treated?

Your vet's primary focus will be to safely reduce your dog's body temperature. Cool water may be poured over your dog's head, body, and feet, or cool wet cloths might be applied to those areas. Sometimes rubbing alcohol could be applied to your dog's footpads in order to help dilate pores and increase perspiration. Treatment for dogs with heatstroke can also include intravenous fluids, mild sedation, and low-concentration oxygen therapy.

Along with treating the immediate symptoms of heatstroke, your vet will also monitor your dog for secondary complications such as changes in blood pressure, electrolytes abnormalities, kidney failure, development of neurologic symptoms, and abnormal clotting. 

How can I prevent my dog from developing heatstroke?

When it comes to your dog's health and wellbeing, preventing heatstroke from ever happening is key. You can prevent your dog from developing heat stroke by following these tips:

  • Never leave a dog alone in a car. Even if you park in the shade and leave the windows cracked the temperature in your car can skyrocket! Studies show that even on cooler days, the temperature inside a car can rise by as much as 40 degrees in just one hour.
  • Know your dog's level of heatstroke risk and take steps to be extra cautious with dogs that have an increased risk. Dog breeds with flat or 'squished' faces (aka brachycephalic) are more likely to experience heatstroke than dogs with longer noses. At-risk breeds include bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Shih Tzus and mastiffs.
  • Obese dogs or those that have an underlying heart condition could be particularly susceptible to heatstroke.
  • If you have to leave your dog outside for long periods of time when it's hot out, be sure to give them plenty of water and shade. A baby pool for a dog left outside could help, as they can cool themselves down by jumping in! Special cooling vests for dogs are also available for dogs that spend a lot of time in the heat.
  • Working dogs can get very focused on their job and forget to rest. Enforce rest breaks for your working dog to let their body cool down (even if they don't want to).

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

If your dog is experiencing heat stroke contact our emergency vets in Windsor who are available 24/7 to take care of your pet's urgent veterinary needs.

Looking for a vet in Windsor? We're accepting new patients!

(860) 688-8400